Is Byron Scott the Best Choice for Next Los Angeles Lakers Head Coach?

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Is Byron Scott the Best Choice for Next Los Angeles Lakers Head Coach?
Chris Chambers/Getty Images

By now, the Los Angeles Lakers (should) know that Phil Jackson won't be walking through whatever door Kobe Bryant has been staring at since spring 2011.

So how about settling for Byron Scott?

Chris Broussard of ESPN.com says the Lakers have spoken with the former player turned head coach:

Sam Amick of USA Today confirmed the report. General manager Mitch Kupchak pretty much admitted the same, telling Amick "we have started" the process of finding Mike D'Antoni's replacement.

Nothing is considered imminent at the moment. Kupchak made sure to say he does "not anticipate hiring a coach in the next two to three weeks" and intends to consider a number of other candidates.

Still, you get the sense Scott is a serious option. His name has been among the many thrown around since D'Antoni resigned and the Lakers were first tasked with finding his successor. A face-to-face meeting suggests strong mutual interest exists between both parties. 

Is that good? Is that bad?

Is it perfect?

 

Laker Ties

Dick Raphael/Getty Images

Scott has a number of things working in his favor that other candidates don't, starting with his familiarity of the organization.

As a player, Scott spent 11 seasons with the Lakers, during which time he won three NBA championships. He understands the expectations that come with the territory and won't be taken aback by the media circus forever enveloping the storied franchise.

Equally important, Scott has a sound track record in coaching circles, especially when it comes to coaching veteran teams.

Though he flamed out with the Cleveland Cavaliers, there's absolutely nothing to learn from his time there. Cleveland gave him a crap roster under crappy circumstances, and it reflected in its crap record. Scott was tasked with replacing Mike Brown—who has been hired and fired again since Scott left in 2012—just after LeBron James wisely joined forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat. How much better could he have done?

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Failing to top 24 victories in any of his three seasons as head coach isn't indicative of a job well done, but Scott did some wonderful things to help Kyrie Irving grow as a scorer and shooter, and there isn't a coach out there who would have guided Cleveland to the playoffs between 2010-11 and 2012-13. The team was that bad.

Prior to his days in Cleveland, Scott spent five-plus seasons with the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets before being shown the door nine games into his sixth. The Hornets only made the playoffs twice while he was there, and failure to make it out of the second round in 2008 after 56 regular-season wins loomed large for the next couple years.

New Jersey is where Scott was most successful. The then-New Jersey Nets were his first head-coaching gig, and he steered them toward consecutive Eastern Conference titles during the Jason Kidd glory days. That was him at his best, guiding a veteran team with talent at the point guard position, showing an ability to balance egos and instill top-rated defensive schemes.

Beyond those qualifications, Scott may also have Bryant on speed dial. 

The two played together during Bryant's rookie season. When the Lakers job first opened up, Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski named Scott as one of the candidates atop Bryant's coaching wish list.

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

After insisting that Bryant wouldn't be consulted during the hiring process, Kupchak has changed his tune, citing the Black Mamba as a determining factor in whatever decision the Lakers make.

"I have to say we're leaning toward the type of the coach we would want (and) I would say there would be experience involved, certainly on some level, but not necessarily," he told Amick.

Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding expanded on this idea: 

The Lakers' approach will be to some extent about meeting Bryant halfway, especially when the team doesn't have much to look forward to next season except Bryant's triumphant return that didn't stick in 2013-14.

It makes sense that Bryant will be featured under the new coach, who is more likely to be a veteran who reveres Bryant, such as Byron Scott or Mike Dunleavy, or a newbie who knows him well, such as Quin Snyder or Derek Fisher.

Experience is the way to go if the Lakers are trying to appease Bryant to some degree. He can be sold on showing restraint in free agency and mentoring their seventh overall pick if he believes the team is counting on him to remain a one-man wrecking, playoff-berth-clinching crew. 

If hiring Scott is what drills that concept into Bryant's brain and allows the Lakers to sell him on one more year of "The Kobe Show," then there's really nothing complicated about Los Angeles' interest. It's smart business practice.

 

Shallow Well

Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

There isn't much out there in the way of coaching prospects for the Lakers right now. 

Chasing a big name like George Karl, Lionel Hollins or Jeff Van Gundy is always an option, but Karl is looking for organizational control the Lakers obviously won't give, and Hollins' stringent, primitive coaching style won't necessarily suit an aging Bryant, whose silence during Los Angeles' transition will cost on-court freedom that the former Memphis Grizzlies head coach isn't known for offering.

Van Gundy would be an interesting fit, yet for him to leave the comfy confines of ESPN, it's going to take more than a team building around a superstar pushing 36.

Pulling their next coach from the college ranks once seemed like an option for the Lakers. That's even changed.

Mike Krzyzewski, like Jackson, isn't walking through that door. John Calipari, meanwhile, isn't going to leave his gig at Kentucky anytime soon.

Kevin Ollie of UConn appeared to be a legitimate candidate. Then the Huskies went and signed him to a lucrative contract extension.

Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg would be a novice worth exploring if he was willing to leave his current post. His coaching style fits within the modern-day NBA perfectly—fast offense, analytics-based planning and infrequent mid-range jumpers.

But Hoiberg has done a wonderful job restocking talent for the Cyclones following their Sweet 16 berth. He was also given a substantial raise for his efforts last season.

Moreover, like CBS Sports' Gary Parrish says, there may not be an opening—the Lakers included—he's smitten by:

Going forward, Hoiberg would take a call from the Lakers for the same reasons anybody would take a call from the Lakers, and if Indiana opens -- or if Kevin Durant decides to fire Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City for some reason -- then, obviously, those are also the types of situations that would intrigue any man. But short of a development in one of those areas, it appears that Iowa State fans can probably relax a little ... at least until next year.

Any college coach—save for maybe Coach K—would take the Lakers' call because they're the Lakers. But would Hoiberg consider leaving an established program on the rise for a team facing future uncertainty, even if said club is the Lakers? 

Outside college ranks, the hottest names available have already been scooped up. Steve Kerr joined the Golden State Warriors, and the Detroit Pistons dangled absolute control in Stan Van Gundy's face, so he took it.

That's left the Lakers to meet with guys like Mike Dunleavy, according to Wojnarowski.

Yes, Mike Dunleavy.

Stating the blatantly apparent here, but what's with all the Mikes? Mike Brown, Mike D'Antoni, Mike Dunleavy. That's weird. And telling.

If Dunleavy is nabbing interviews, the Lakers' coaching search will either include every potential candidate known to man, or they're off their rockers. He is not the answer. He led the Lakers to the NBA Finals in 1991. Big deal. Scott stands to be a much, much (much) better fit than him.

 

Best is a Strong Word

Bringing in Scott is the perfect move.

In an ideal world, Tom Thibodeau would leave the Chicago Bulls. Jackson would discover the fountain of youth, leave a flaming pile of dog dung on James Dolan's doorstep and rejoin the Lakers.

Coach K would recruit Hoiberg and Ollie to be his assistants for the Purple and Gold.

This isn't an ideal world, though. The Lakers have to make the most of their current situation.

Who among realistic coaching options suits the Lakers best?

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"We have to make sure that whoever we hire as a coach really gets the most productivity out of (Bryant), whether it's scoring the ball or play-making or the threat that he may score," Kupchak told Amick. "That's probably of primary importance right now.

At present, there isn't an excess of top-flight sideline-meanderers available. There's almost none who fit the Lakers' primary criteria: someone who can coach a Bryant-quarterbacked Lakers faction. Scott is one of the few. He may be the only one. 

Just look at the alternatives. Dunleavy? No, thanks. Derek Fisher? Maybe as an assistant. 

Hollins, Karl or Van Gundy? No, no and please, oh please, yes, but no. 

Finding a coach who can handle these Lakers, who can appeal to Bryant is top priority. That's what we know. If someone like Thibs or Hoiberg suddenly becomes available, then of course you look. Until then, the Lakers are left to cope with reality—the reality being Scott is the best choice within a fallow well of options.

 

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